After the demise of Communism as a political system and economic philosophy, the global politico-economic scene underwent gigantic changes. The international order, which was previously premised on a fine balance of bipolarity, came full circle with the capitalistic forces taking over the uncontested leadership role in economic and political spheres. Since the collapse of Soviet Union, the New World Order, spearheaded by the US with the cooperation of the European countries, has characterized the functioning of the whole world, defining the broad parameters within which global interaction has to operate.
Globalization is the ultimate outcome of this process of mutual interaction among nations and societies under a new political and economic paradigm. Condemned by some quarters in no uncertain terms as a lethal concept and eulogized by others as a harbinger of economic progress, the globalization as an idea and movement can be construed both as a bane and a boon. However, one thing is certain in this unending debate about the morality or amorality of globalization that it has revolutionized the pattern of our thinking and action. The powerful countries are thrilled at the prospect of establishing their hegemony, while the weaker ones feel jeopardized by its onward rush fearing getting devoured.
The mushroom growth of information technology with the whole world becoming a global village thanks to the revolutionary changes in the cyber world has started to impact upon the cultures, values and living patterns of nations. Thus from an irreconcilable diversity we are fast exploring commonalities among apparently competing cultures, civilizations and values. Such is the force of globalization. However, this trend has paved the way for emergence of regional groupings aimed at guarding their economic and political interests.
Whether these regional blocs represent an opposition to the forces of globalization or an extension of the same is still not clear as debate among scholars, researchers and political commentators remain inconclusive. But all agree that this is no doubt a novel and creative idea to respond to complex challenges in chorus by pooling their energies and economic resources together for their mutual benefit. The success of the European Union has caused a domino effect around the globe as more and more countries are eager to join one or other regional association to its advantage.
This part of the world where Pakistan, India, Maldives, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are located is known as South Asia. All of these countries are now together in a regional grouping called SAARC. Formed in 1985, the SAARC organization has failed to achieve the objectives for which it was put in place. If at all it has succeeded in a few areas and kept its existence intact despite many odds, it has done so on a snail’s pace. Contrary to the stark failure of SAARC are the success stories like EU, AFTA, and NAFTA that have done tremendously well in a number of fields.
The book Issues, Prospects & Policy Prescriptions is a combination of a number of articles which this writer wrote for leading English-language newspapers of Pakistan. Coupled with a few additions, the book discusses various challenges posed to SAARC and gives suggestions as to how this organization can be made potent and relevant. The purpose of writing this is to highlight the importance of SAARC in confronting the global issues with a win-win mindset. If others could do it, why should South Asia lag behind? If the countries of the region have to move forward, they need to act in unison. This part of world is strategically very important. Therefore, time to act is now. Gone are the days when mutual rivalries hindered journey towards progress and growth. There are also a few articles, which exclusively deal with the Pakistani economy. A brief review of these articles is presented in the following lines:
The first article Outsourcing is a comprehensive but brief treatise on the phenomenon of outsourcing, which is fast dominating the world economic scene. The realities of today’s highly competitive business environment and the use of outsourcing as a solution to lower the costs in specific aspects of the production and delivery of goods and services have evolved to the point where it has come to be an essential ingredient in corporate cost saving regimes. It also incorporates theoretical as well as practical aspects of outsourcing along with the problems associated with it.
The second article On negotiations throws light on the structure, essential principles and methodology of carrying out successful negotiations. Negotiations are part and parcel of modern life as it encompasses all walks of life, be it diplomatic, political or economic etc. It also furnishes suggestions as to polish the art of negotiations.
The third article What ails SAARC dilates upon the factors responsible for the abysmal state of affairs SAARC is in. SAARC has immense potential of growing into a viable organization through vision and determined leadership but there are some handicaps, which are hindering its growth into a viable organization. However, the fact remains that international security and economic developments warrant revitalization of the organization to play its full role. By bringing in necessary changes in the SAARC charter and putting in place institutions to take care of all of its operations, SAARC can be made potent and relevant organization. But it requires exercise of vision and demonstration of political will on the part of the leaderships of all member-countries.
The fourth article Exploring areas of Cooperation for SAARC identifies some of the basic areas of mutual interest where SAARC countries need to work jointly in order maximize their output. Despite political differences among the member countries, SAARC can still find common ground for collective action in mutually agreed fields like education, infrastructure development, energy development, intra-regional trade, information technology and harmonization of Customs clearance procedures etc.
The fifth article Reforming United Nations talks of the need to reform the United Nations Organization by bringing its role at par with the ground realities. Of late, the UN has proven to be an utter failure in responding to various challenges with potential fear of becoming irrelevant. The third world countries do not trust the UNO as an impartial arbiter of world affairs. The article also proposes measures to restructure the organization.
The sixth article Why Developing World scared of WTO throws light on the apprehensions entertained by the developing countries about the potential negative effects of WTO on their respective economies. It urges the developed world to show initiative and political will in erasing these reservations and fears through timely action and engagement.
The seventh article Developing Bio-energy looks at the need of developing alternative energy resources in order to meet the growing energy needs. The way prices of POL products have skyrocketed in recent times points out the possibility of hard times ahead if the world does not lessen its dependence on oil and develop other cheaper sources of energy. Bio-energy is one of such options which can be explored.
The eighth article Economic Options for Pakistan talks of the need for Pakistan to get into economic partnerships and invigorate SAARC in order to protect its economic interests. The ‘bloc politics’ has proven to be quite useful in addressing political and economic problems. Situation is undergoing such changes at multiple levels that adjusting ones policies timely to the developments has become quite a need.
The ninth article Role of Economic self-sufficiency in national security deals with the role of economic progress in strengthening the national security. The traditional security doctrine put emphasis on the accumulation of state of the art arms and ammunition but with the collapse of United States of Soviet Russia, the horizon of national security widened with other essential ingredients also getting noticed as an integral part of all-comprehensive national security policy. The more country is self-sufficient in meeting its economic needs, the more resilient it is in facing the external and internal security –related challenges.
The tenth article Tackling terrorism may seem to be a little out of place here but on a deeper analysis, it appears to have its correlation with the success or failure of businesses and economies. Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon with adverse potential impacts. It directly affects the economic health of a state. Therefore, eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestation is also very necessary to allow the economies of the countries to grow. This article is Pakistan-specific but its underlying principles are applicable elsewhere too.
The eleventh article What ails political parties has been written in respect of the role of political parties in the Pakistani political scene. Since its birth in 1947, the country has alternated between democracy and dictatorships. One of the major reasons for the protracted rule of military dictatorships is the absence of genuine and manifesto-based political parties. The Pakistani politics is highly personalized with the result that democracy has not taken root in the country. If there is no democracy, there would be no institutions. If there are no institutions representing people’s aspirations and rule of law, there would be no economic progress. It is in this background that reformation of political parties becomes urgent as a necessary condition for economic growth.
I hope this book would prove very beneficial not only for students but also for the general readers.
Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri
September 19, 2008
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